Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Things to read

I've had these articles sitting open in various windows of my browser for weeks begging for a thoughtful reading and response, but this is a blog so all that's really required is a half-baked expression of interest.

An article on Thomas Midgley,
inventor of tetra-ethyl lead as a gasoline additive, developer of CFC-based refrigerants, and victim of spectacularly poetic justice.

An article on American democracy
, and the staggering lack of knowledge thereof amongst the youth, its causes, and perhaps even a few rays of hope.

The secret to raising smart kids
. Reward effort, not results. Slightly counterintuitive--doesn't "the real world" reward results?--but the overall idea is that you want to make sure your kid is working up to her full potential--that is to say, working her hardest.


Patricia said...

Smart children already know they're smart (hello?)so it doesn't make sense to pretend otherwise. Parents can, however, teach them that "smart" is just genes and environment and concentrate on teaching them to be good, whole people. The trouble comes when an institution, by virtue of standardized tests, quantifies their smarts. Then they can measure themselves against others - THAT is when they decide they don't have to study, work, etc. By then, parents are pretty helpless. Although they can continue to fight the good fight, it feels like pelting someone with soap bubbles.

Dingbat said...

Definitely: the problems come about when smart kids are labelled (by themselves or others) as "smart." They figure that they have an established reputation and not only do they not work as hard, they become more risk-averse and don't take on challenges that might put their reputation at risk. Can you tell from that "risk-averse" that the first place I read about this was an economist's blog? (Hat tip:Marginal Revolution)